Author Interview on Facebook! Join in!

Author Interview on Facebook! Join in!

https://www.facebook.com/events/287455714745736/?ref=22&source=1

Hello friends!

Please join me this Sunday night, 3/30, @ 6pm for a Facebook ‘Spotlight’ interview to discuss my debut novel “Secret Agent of God”. Please click ‘Going’ if you might be able to attend online.

The novel is a spiritual thriller about a young woman named Janice Morrison who uses her prophetic abilities to thwarts a terrorist attack on US soil. According to fans, ‘Secret’ is a very fast read, with oddly enough, humor and a touch of romance. Janice has some interesting character flaws including her attempts to get a handle on her potty mouth and a tendency to fall for the wrong sort of guys. Janice’s life is pretty much a train wreck but she manages to find humor in it. A ‘catholic in progress’, Janice’s underlying faith struggle is the novel’s major theme.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope to hear from you Sunday night!

 

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Agent-God-Eileen-Slovak-ebook/dp/B00IDEI76Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396117102&sr=8-1&keywords=eileen+slovak

Novel Acknowledgements

www.eileenslovak.com
http://www.eileenslovak.com

Thank you!

Grazie!

شكرا

¡gracias

谢谢

σας ευχαριστώ

ありがとう

merci!

The bulk of the work of writing takes place in a solitary room. It happens between a writer and his or her computer. However, even for Indie writers, creating a finished product, producing a physical novel from the ramblings of the mind is not really a solo act.

Editors, proofreader’s, cover designers, interior layout designers, writers groups, beta readers, family and friends all contribute to the process. Although, those who put up with the most, often receive the least amount of gratitude. For example, the family members who endure the last-minute thrown together dinners because the words were flowing or tolerate the mood swings when characters are not cooperating. And the friends who read the early and not so great versions of our work, but still offer honest feedback, while remaining supportive.

So, to my entire support network: Thank you! Here is a glimpse of the Acknowledgement page of “Secret Agent of God”:

Secret Agent of God
Secret Agent of God

 

There is every possibility, I will have forgotten to thank someone. Please know that this is not intentional. There is also a real possibility, that I might thank someone who will never even read my book. Some of my very best friends don’t follow my blog, or my twitter feed, and do not even have Facebook accounts. That’s OK, they have my back and for that I am forever grateful.

Oh and by the way, the first person to like this blog post on http://www.wordpress.com, will receive a free, signed copy of my new novel. It only seems fitting, since this is where my public writing journey began, to say thank you with a gift.

Thanks for reading!

 

Third Time is a Charmer

In 2012, I attended my first writer’s conference. Although, at the time, I had already been writing for years. Walking in that first day, I was certain that at that point in time, I was ready to become a published writer. Turns out, I wasn’t.

An agent was kind enough to review my work, but I was devastated when she said I was likely a year away from being ready. Another year, I thought. I’ll never make it. Alas, after many more hours of writing and after completing multiple rewrites, just shy of two years later, I emerged with a completely different manuscript.

I just published my ‘first’ novel, “Secret Agent of God”. 

Image
“Secret Agent of God”

 

I say ‘first’, but what I mean is third, because the other two never saw the light of day. My real ‘first’ novel, the one I attempted to write about twenty-five years ago, was a summery love story. From what I can recall, it was along the lines of Snooky’s book about the Jersey Shore, but mine was about a little known island called Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. I think I still have the story in a shoebox somewhere. It was hand-written on an assortment of cocktail napkins and in several beer-stained, spiral notebooks.

My second novel was another lovelorn tale about a single working gal, who was very similar to my former single-self, but in a fictional setting. Said ‘gal’ tried desperately not to fall in love with a very attractive private detective who had just breezed into town. YAWN. Sixty-five thousand words into the manuscript and after (I’m too embarrassed to say how many years), I decided the story was not unique enough to publish.

What’s the moral of this story? Both of these writing exercises helped me to become a better writer and more importantly, they made me realize some things. I don’t really like writing romance unless it’s wrapped in another package like paranormal suspense. Furthermore, if my life were exciting enough to read about, I wouldn’t need to write fiction. Finally, it takes as long as it takes. While deadlines are important, you need patience to become a writer.

In my first published novel, I created a protagonist who is nothing like me, threw her into a crazy situation and viola! I wrote a fast-paced thriller, with a strong female protagonist who is quirky, upbeat and funny despite her bleak circumstances. I almost feel badly about everything I put poor twenty-one-year-old Janice Morrison through, but I’m confident that she can handle it. She is ‘spiritually challenged’ but remarkably resourceful.

The weird thing is, I keep thinking, that someday I’ll be signing books in a mall somewhere and Janice will walk right up to me and say, “Hey, you stole my life!”

Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

Query Letters: Quantity or Quality?

I met a writer at a conference who said he sent 300 query letters before self-publishing.  I read some of his work, he is a good writer; but is writing 300 query letters a good strategy?  Based on my research over the past several years, I would say that quality is always better than quantity.

This may even be the motto of my life.

I am not an expert on writing query letters, but I have found some:

http://www.facebook.com/agent.rachelle

True confessions time!

After researching Agencies, http://www.agentquery.com/  I sent three letters for my first novel Seeing Scarlet before beginning yet another round of rewrites.  The rewrites are my decision, because I know I can better.   Of the three letters sent, I received one request for a full manuscript.  Not bad odds.

For my second, not quite completed novel, I sent one letter and received a very nice rejection.  By that, I mean, several paragraphs, which were both encouraging and offered an explanation about why she could not take on the novel.

What is the consensus?  What do they want?

Send it to the right agent, someone who represents your genre and is actively seeking new authors.

No typos or grammatical errors.

  • If your letter is boring, the assumption is that your novel will be as well.
  • Brevity: agents are busy.
  • No gimmicks, but a good hook doe not hurt.
  • Answer the question:  what is your story and why are you qualified to write it?

If you think have ever been in involved in a job search and who hasn’t, it’s not unlike writing a cover letter, if yours stinks, no one will read your résumé or your novel in this case, no matter how great it is.

Oh, and most importantly, double-check the spelling of the name of the Agency and Agent.  They say this actually happens, but it won’t get you very far.

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Echoes of the Silent Response

Thought for the week:  When seeking support, accept surprises, avoid obstacles and don’t always discount strangers.

Aside from other writers, I seek support and opinions on my writing from family, friends and acquaintances.  Interestingly, some of the most reliable feedback comes from acquaintances, not from my nearest and dearest.  Why?   I suspect the people who care about me, sugar coat their responses out of kindness.  I understand.  It’s hard to negatively criticize someone you like.

When analyzing feedback, I try to focus on common threads, tossing aside any commentary that falls too far to the extremes.  Good news always comes first.

“Great character, send more!”

“I can’t wait for the next chapter.”

Finally, the rare and valued, detailed critique:

“I was confused by this part.  I didn’t get where you were going with this or that.  My favorite part was such and such.”

From the rest, silence, leaving me to interpret its meaning.

You thought it stunk and don’t know how to say that without hurting my feelings.  Or you lost interest after the first sentence.

Silence leads to doubt and doubt has a way of coiling its slimy self in a dark corner of my brain, periodically raising its scaly head to hiss, spit or rattle its tail, lest I forget about it.  The longer this goes on the more agonizing it becomes.  

Do I really want to know that someone hated what I wrote?  Absolutely!  What I find out after probing is:

“I couldn’t find the file.”

“I couldn’t open the file.”

“I loved it, didn’t I tell you?”

“I was too busy to get to it.”

“I didn’t care for the story, but liked the other one you sent.”

So what does this mean?  Positive feedback is great, but just as important, is the other kind, it reveals something about your future audience.  You need a variety of test readers, including some lacking a keen interest in protecting your feelings, because assuming you publish your novel, readers who know very little or nothing about you will read your work, if you are lucky.

Readers of your published work will approach your story from a different perspective, bringing their own likeness into play, viewing it through their the lens of their history.  They will not concern themselves with what you think or how you feel; they expect you to fulfill their wants, needs and desires.  If you fail, will they be kind?

In the end, I gratefully take in to account all comments and then rely on my inner Editor and Critic, but sometimes, even she, tries to placate me.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come:  The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell! & The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!

Maintaining Momentum

Thought for the week: We all spend time in the writing ditch; how you get out of it is up to you.

In the midst of writing and re-writing my first novel, “Seeing Scarlet”, a second novel materialized. Initially, I denied it time and energy due to WOCD, writer’s obsessive compulsion disorder, refusing to write novel number two, because novel number one was not yet complete.

However, this new character, Janice Morrison, would not go away. Every time I stalled out writing Scarlet’s story, Janice would tap on the back door of my brain.

“Hay, it’s me again, Janice. Got a second?”

“No, I’m busy. Come back later,” I grumbled.

“You still working on that book? Come, on! I’ve been waitin’ long enough here to tell you something. You won’t believe this one.”

Janice would just not hear me and I refused to listen because I was busy being stuck in the ‘writing ditch’, a place where you cannot move forward or backward, without digging yourself a deeper hole.

Frustrated anyway, I finally took a woefully needed break from Scarlet and tuned in to Janice. Before long, I had written twenty-five thousand words of her story. Now that number is nearly double. My second novel, “Secret Agent of…God?” is character driven, focused, true to the tale that I set out to write and is a narrative that technically told itself. The best part…it was fun to write again.

I learned something valuable from Janice. The protagonist sets the tone of the story and decides where it will ultimately go. In Scarlet’s case, I had tried to mold her into someone she had no interest in becoming. I became confused, thinking I was writing my story at times, but Scarlet is definitely not me.

I let Scarlet’s issues stew on the back burner for a bit and worked on Janice’s predicament and other projects, short stories and flash fiction for contests until one day, an answer to Scarlet’s problem presented itself.

While watching my eight-year-old outrunning ten and eleven-year-olds at her running camp, being fiercely competitive at all things, easily able to outsmart me with minimal effort, she was already so confident and different from me, at her age. I realized something, I gave her life and shared a few genes, but I can never take credit for how amazing she is, all on her own.

This triggered my ascent. I needed to accept Scarlet’s individuality as I have my daughters. As Scarlet’s creator, I owed her this much. When I began blending in this new perspective, a bright and more vivid character emerged.

Ask yourself if you have another tale to tell, at least temporarily. Write poetry, even badly, create a children’s book, draft a short story, pen an article about anthills. Meanwhile, let your character quandary simmer until a solution comes bubbling to the surface; when it does, simply stir in the spice you found before your ideas burn out or evaporate. At the very least, a fresh story will keep you company and give you something to chew on while you wait for a figurative tow truck to conjure a productive way out of the ‘writing ditch’.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come: Seeking Support: Surprises and Stumbling Blocks; The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell!; The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!

Writers Group Therapy

Thought for the week: If you can’t take the heat, stay away from the fire pit.

As an aspiring writer, I subscribe to various trade publications, my favorite being Writers Digest Magazine. The magazine offers solid advice, contest opportunities, author interviews and inspiration among other things. One piece of valuable advice I garnered from WD was the recommendation to create a writing support system by becoming part of the writing community, in other words make some writing friends. What a novel idea. This craft can be isolating.

My first step was to join a local writers group. I went to my favorite source of information, the local library, where a helpful librarian directed to me to a group that meets twice a month.

Naturally, I had preconceived notions of what the group would be like. I imagined people like myself, amateur stay-at-home Moms who wanted to reenter the work force by becoming writers. No egocentrism involved there. I assumed between chats about writing we would swap stories about our children’s sports events and share recipes.

As it turns out, my group is primarily male and filled with some excellent writers with varied backgrounds: retired teachers with advanced degrees, a journalist, a songwriter, a film school graduate, self-published authors and traditionally published authors of novels or short story anthologies.

This threw me, I was not sure I was either worthy or courageous enough to be in this group, not to mention, read my romantic suspense Novel in front of them. I wondered how my membership might enhance the group. I hung in because there was no question I would have an opportunity to learn something.

At the first meeting, I sat quietly listening to the others read their work. I had in tow, chapter one of my novel, Seeing Scarlet. At one point, the group organizer called on me to read. I shook my head furiously and refused. Very mature on my part, yes? If I could have, I would have slunk under the table and slithered from the room. I considered quitting but instead returned a few weeks later for the next meeting.

I brought the same chapter and after a few people read, summoned the courage to read. My delivery was akin to that of an auctioneer. I am not certain anyone could even understand me. The piece was entirely too long and halfway through, I could hear people shifting in their seats. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them checking their watches. Okay, I may have imagined that last part. Then, the critique of my work commenced. The quotes are only as accurate as my own recollection and are unassigned to protect identities:

“There’s way too much back story!”

“Where’s the action?”

“All I could think about was Scarlet O’Hara.”

I felt as if my heartfelt narrative was a slab of raw meat and the wolves were all having at it. Then, my personal favorite:

“I was falling asleep over here!”

They liked certain parts of it and some offered more carefully formed comments:

“You’re obviously a competent writer. It’s good to know you can form sentences with some degree of ability.”

Finally, the statement that cut to the quick:

“You’re quirky. You have a story to tell and it’s buried in there somewhere.”

I was upset, although I am not sure what I expected. I went home, drank some wine while wallowing in self-pity and flipped through the television channels.

What do a bunch of men know about romance anyway? What makes them think they’re so great?

Ironically, I stumbled across the movie “Gone with the Wind” on TMC. Scarlet O’Hara, humph! In truth, I had never seen the movie or read the book. Instead, I secretly scoffed about it. I began watching. Hours later, at two in morning, riveted, with tears in my eyes, I shouted at the television and shook my fist, give ‘em hell, Scarlet!

I had always presumed it was a sappy romance, but Scarlet O’Hara was the Heroine of her time, strong, determined, smart, witty, beautiful and maybe a little manipulative, but what choice did she have? I would be proud to have a character like her in my novel.

Watching the film, I realized a few things, you cannot scoff at romance if you are going to write it and you somehow have to make people care about your characters, so they could not possibly fall asleep in the beginning of your story.

What had I written? What was my novel about? Questions I needed to answer, before the reconstruction of the story could begin in earnest. I realized that I began telling one story and then morphed into telling another because I was chasing the market. I had committed the worst offense in writing; I had lost sight of my story and set aside good writing in search of commercial success.

The next day, still slightly steaming about the comments from my group, I re-read my notes from the night before and realized they were not trying to mean, they were trying to help me become a better writer. I felt even more embarrassed for my reaction. If someone is willing to hear or read your writing, take it for what it is, a gift.

Of course, a small part of my Irish pride still needed to prove to them that I could do better. I rewrote chapter one, over and over and over. Each time it got a little tighter and more fluid. After all, writing is only the beginning, then comes rewriting.

As regards the group, I stuck it out and I like to think I am earning my stripes. It has become something to look forward to although it seems like an odd cross between AA and group therapy for writers, not that I have experience with either.

If you join one, think of the first reading as an initiation of sorts. Learning how to take criticism on your work is vital to survival. You may never learn to take it without insult, but your writing will benefit from it, by incorporating the suggestions that make your work more polished.

Ultimately, being an author is a weird sort of solo act with many support personnel helping and guiding you along the way but you have to know what is best for your story.

I have since received much stronger reviews from my group and I now feel as though my writing better represents who I want to be as an author of novels-still unpublished, but unwavering.

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come: Momentum; Seeking Support: Surprises and Stumbling Blocks; The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference & Query Letter Hell!

Becoming a Real Writer

Thought for the week:  Dream bigger, what do you have to lose?

Like many of you, I have been thinking about writing a blog for a long time.  Thinking about writing anything and not doing it is pointless because your ideas only become something when you put them down on paper or onto a computer screen and even then, if you never share the document with anyone else, you still have not accomplished anything.   If you share your writing with at least one other person, you can then say, “I wrote this and someone read it.”  Even better, “I wrote this and someone liked it.”  Best, “I wrote this and someone published it.”

I have dreamed of being a writer all of my life, but only recently have I dared call myself by that noble title.  Why?  I began writing in childhood, making greeting cards and filling journals with poetry while sitting in my bedroom closet.  At ten I did not know anything about poetry except that I needed to write my thoughts down on a page in an obscure way, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, sometimes comprehensible to others, sometimes not.  I read one of my poems to my Mother once.  She said it was depressing.  It was my first official critique.

In college, I wrote short stories and read them in front of my classes.  It was mortifying.  Sometimes my professors felt the stories were publishable.  Therefore, I did the logical thing, stuck them in a drawer, and never showed them to anyone again.  The thought of having my writing out there, my soul bared, terrified me.  I switched majors knowing that remaining an English major was the path to unemployment, until one of my writing professors pulled me aside and said, “Why aren’t you writing?  This is what you are meant to do.”  So struck by her confidence in me, something I surely never possessed, I stuck it out and graduated with a BA in English from the University of Rhode Island.

Beginning the very day of graduation, I fielded questions such as “What are going do, teach?”

“No, I answered, I am going to be a writer.”   That response brought scoffs at best and at worst; long diatribes on how most writers never see their work published.

My father, a Professor at the University, retired the year that I graduated, so we were invitees to a special reception where all of the important staff and graduates mixed and mingled, including the Valedictorian of my class, whom I had a crush on and the guest speaker, Kurt Vonnegut.

I remember standing under the tent in the buffet line next to Kurt Vonnegut straining to think of something brilliant to say.  We both stepped sideways pausing to spoon mayonnaise infused salads and cold cuts onto our plates.  He was so close; I could have touched him.  Before we reached the end of the table, he stopped and looked down at me.  I am five foot nine, but I suddenly felt like a small child.  I looked up at this famous writer, a towering oak, this man who was an expert at his craft and profoundly said, “Hi,” and then looked sharply at my potato salad.

How many chances do you think one person gets in life?  Can you walk away from your destiny and not expect it to shadow your steps for the rest of your days?

After college, unable to find work as writer that paid enough to keep me from needing a second job, I worked as a server, a bartender, a housecleaner and began writing my first novel.  I think I still have it somewhere in a box, in the attic, a mass of scribbled notebook pages and notes on cocktail napkins.  The most idiotic thoughts seem profound jotted down onto a cocktail napkin.  If I remember correctly it was typical of most first novels, far too autobiographical, overly emotive and missing a so what?

I quickly tired of serving people food and cleaning toilets and found a job in the business world where competent writing ability is valued-sometimes.  I planned to keep writing creatively on the side.  The problem with having a real job, if you are doing it right, is that it leaves you with very little energy on the side.  However, I fulfilled other dreams of mine, traveled all over the United States and overcame my fears of public speaking and cocktail parties; in Sales and Marketing you do or die.

The great thing about a real job is it gives you a real life and real things to write about when you finally stop daydreaming and decide that you will write that first novel.  I married a brilliant man, had two wonderful children, left my career, wrote freelance (emphasis on the free part) for two years, lived in Italy for three years and finally got serious about writing.  I have one novel written, although I cannot seem to stop changing it and a second more than half-written and several ideas and chapters for others.  I am now utilizing my business background to help me navigate the business of publishing, which is no easy task, especially since the industry is elastic.

After coming out of the “writing closet”, I have discovered something astounding: many people write or aspire to and never tell a soul.  For the longest time, only my closest friends knew about my writing.  We ‘want to be’ writers apologize and say, “Well, I’m not a real writer.”

What is a real writer?  Today anyone can self publish.  Anyone can write a blog.  Does being a real writer still mean publication by one of the big New York publishing houses?  Ultimately, this remains the goal of many writers, including myself.  Despite the fact that e publishing is all the rage, I still have my heart set on posing for a photo in front of a bookstore window displaying my published novel.  I also frequent libraries and prefer to hold an actual book in my hands when I read it, blissfully turning paper pages.  I realize this makes me a Techno Dino and I may have to revise my goals.  Flexibility is key in today’s publishing market, even if I do everything right and follow all of the advice I’ve been given, I may never be published in the traditional sense.

After spending more than a six years seriously writing and over two years researching and employing tactics of how to publish my work, I decided to blog about this topic, to talk about what’s working for me and what is not.  Who knows, I might be able to help other writers struggling with the same issues.  With luck, this journey will take us both to the bookshelves!

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come:  The Starting Line, Writers Group, Momentum, My First Writers Conference & Query Letter Hell!